Labor council stays out of Portland City Council races — for now

Delegates to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) voted Feb. 24 to stay out of Portland City Council elections until the City has a new collective bargaining agreement with the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU). City employees represented by seven unions rejected a tentative agreement Feb. 10 after nearly a year of contentious bargaining. The City has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the DCTU and, at press time both sides were in a 30-day cooling off period after having submitted their “last, best and final” offers to a state mediator on Feb. 25.

Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish are running for re-election. Neither has what is considered to be serious opposition. Both commissioners  have endorsements from various union locals not associated with the city.

In other political action, NOLC endorsed Deborah Kafoury for Multnomah County chair.

Kafoury resigned as county commissioner to run for chair. The seat opened mid-term, following the resignation of Chair Jeff Cogen.  Kafoury is being challenged by former Portland city commissioner Jim Francesconi. Both candidates have received endorsements from various labor unions. Kafoury, however, was able to attain a two-thirds majority vote by NOLC delegates.

In Multnomah County, NOLC also endorsed incumbent Commissioner Loretta Smith; Jules Bailey, who is seeking Kafoury’s old seat; and the re-election of Sheriff Dan Staton.

In Clackamas County, NOLC endorsed Commissioners Paul Savas and Jim Bernard for re-election.

In Washington County, the labor council is backing Commissioner Greg Malinowski for re-election, and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, who is trying to unseat incumbent Commissioner Bob Terry in District 4.

At Metro regional council, NOLC endorsed the re-election of president Tom Hughes and the re-election of Councilors Shirley Craddick, Carlotta Collette, and Kathryn Harrington.

NOLC took action on two ballot measures that will be on the May ballot.

Delegates voted to oppose the Portland Public Water District ballot measure. Measure 26-156 would strip the Water Bureau from the city, taking with it several hundred union jobs, and placing them under a new water board.

Five large corporate backers covered more than 90 percent of the costs to buy enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. It includes $55,000 from Superfund polluter Wacker Siltronic and $50,000 from timber baron Harry Merlo, formerly of Louisiana Pacific. The group spent more than $130,000 on paid signature gathers.

The labor council also endorsed a local-option levy for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. TVF&R is Oregon’s largest fire district, serving approximately 452,000 citizens in the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Rivergrove, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin, and Wilsonville, as well as unincorporated portions of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties.

Brian Smith, vice president of the 350-member Tualatin Valley Fire Fighters Local 1660, told NOLC’s Executive Board the fire district levy hasn’t sought an increase in nearly 15 years. A local option levy of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value initially passed in 2000. Voters renewed the levy in 2004 and again in 2008. The money allowed for the hiring and/or retention of 36 firefighter medics; the addition of two rescue units; replacement of firefighting safety equipment, including breathing devices and thermal imagers; purchase of rescue tools for accident scenes; construction of a new training tower, and more.

In May, TVF&R will seek an additional 20 cents, or 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. At press time, the local option levy had not received a ballot number.

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